Monthly Archives: April 2015

Developing Confidence: Visualising the serve


The art of visualisation is one of the skills of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Training your mind to visualise a positive event, this can take help take negative thoughts away and aid you gain the outcome you are looking for.

Developing the skill of visualisation is one that takes time and patience. We all know when we are working with children especially our own children; time and patience are not always in abundance.

However what we can help our children with, is one aspect of visualisation and that is developing a performance routine. Probably one of the most memorable performance routines was the one used by Jonny Wilkinson prior to taking a penalty kick. The squat, the cupping of the hands, the looking up at the rugby post, look at the ball, look at the posts, look at the ball and then run and kick the ball. In the world of tennis we can look at Andy Murray always taking three balls or Rafa Nadal’s idiosyncrasies prior to serving are almost a performance routine. Whether we want our children to spend a considerable time adjusting their shorts is a debateable point!

Virtually every player has a problem with their serve at some point especially on pressure points and developing a performance routine for the serve is something we can work on with our children and go through prior to them going to sleep.

My son and I developed the following performance routine, which we would act out in an evening and visualise the ball going over the net and in!

1) Adjust racquet strings
2) Select a ball
3) Deep breath

4) Approach base line
5) Position feet
6) Chopper grip

7) Look at the ball
8) Look at the target
9) Think of the serve going in

10) Say “Hit through”
11) Toss ball & serve


We wrote this on a few pieces of card, one he used as a bookmark and another he had in his tennis bag.

Why don’t you try writing a performance routine with your child and see if helps their serving confidence?

Girls in team tennis: These girls can

aegon team tennis

One of the difficulties that many children have with tennis is the loneliness of competition and for that reason many children are turned off competition. They may have been to one competition with their parents, not really known anyone else there and it has just became too intimidating for them. Another alternative is that they have played competition and have just found it too intense over time and want to take part in a group activity. This is were team tennis comes into its own as the children have the opportunity to play their individual sport but with their friends. In my experience it is the team tennis which can keep teenagers in the sport. After all how many adults play team tennis but would never dream of playing in an individual competition?

We obviously have the AEGON team tennis which is currently taking place all over the county. It is great that there is this structure of club leagues, county cup and schools tennis. Yet it is debatable how effective it is in supporting and encouraging girls to continue with tennis?

Here are 5  changes which could be made which would do this.

1) Insist all mini tennis team include at least one girl. If the team do not have a girl in the team they have points taken off their number of rubbers. For every additional girl in the team the team is given an bonus point.

2) In orange and green there must be a mixed doubles match.

3) At under 12s upwards, many clubs cannot raise a team of girls so why not have girls teams consisting of two players?

4) Teams could be a mixed team of 4 boys and 2 girls? The boys would then encourage girls to play to make up the team.

5) A second alternative at full ball would be in those counties where there are very few girls teams, encourage clubs to join together to form area teams. In more urban areas this may be based around cities or large towns. In rural areas, it may be a North, South, East and West teams.

Whatever systems is chosen we must look at ways of giving girls a route into team tennis rather than the structure closing it down due to numbers.

The image is from the LTA website

Girls in competitions (2): These girls can

You may have read my earlier blog containing my suggestions of six points which could increase the number of girls who compete in junior tennis competitions. Centreline tennis organise many tennis competitions in the East Midlands with a focus on allowing as many children to enter as possible, maximising the number of matches which children have and ensuring children receive trophies and certificates to reward their achievements.

The following points 6 points are their suggestions to add to mine.

1.Increase the social side for girls events. Ideas that we are developing are players areas where bags and players only sit and chill, perhaps at larger events they could have music and games for younger girls to play together.

2. Deliver it in a different way, try and bring a bit more control of the competition to the players especially in the lower level events. Giving them a grip on the events as not so daunting and making the more approachable.

3. A new idea we have been looking into which we can give a line about. “Tennis with your friends” a unique idea we are looking to pilot.

4. More doubles could be a great way to increase girls tennis entries across the uk.

5. Why not do more internal at local clubs for girls only and even invite providers and the LTA to come and some event delivery within the coaching squads with all the feel of the competitions but none of the pressure. Like a step before official entries.

6. Get clubs to bring teams of girls to events rather than just individual entries

Thanks Centreline for getting involved in the debate. In my next blog I intend to look at ideas which could be incorporated into the AEGON structure as many parents believe that team tennis and doubles are also really important.


Girls in tennis competitions: These girls can

Play like a girl

One of the things that is very striking about my tennis club is the number of children who attend group coaching sessions but never play in a competition or even an AEGON Match and this is even more acute amongst the girls. My daughter is in her final season of orange tennis and entering competitions has been a very different process than it was for my son. There are times when I get frustrated and feel our competitions are not necessary set up to encourage girls to compete. These are my suggestions which could help:

1) Always, always, always give a medal or trophy for 1st and 2nd in a competition.

2) Always run a girls draw if you can, so if you have 5 girls and 7boys run two draws for boys and girls. 1st in each draw, 2nd in each draw etc could still off play against each other for an additional challenge.

3) If you can’t run a separate draw ensure that the top girl also gets a medal. Even if there is only one girl in the competition if she wins a match, she is the top girl and should be rewarded.

4) If there are only a small number of girls in the competition, ensure they play against each other. If there is a series of boxes why not make one an all girl box.

5) If this is not possible have a separate round robin alongside the main competition. Give leaderboard points for these small round robins, so even for three girls in a grade 5, the top girl should get 75points etc. This would require an LTA rule change that the minimum number for a competition was not 5 in this circumstance.

6) Discourage red ball competitions with outside red balls. Watching children try and hit the hardest over head serve possible in such a short space is very disconcerting and can put less physical players from fear. I’m sure you will have your own ideas too.

I’d be fascinated to know what they were.

Girls in tennis: These girls can

girls tennis

As the father of a son and a daughter I am acutely aware of the different challenges facing boys and girls in tennis. Before my daughter started playing tennis,I must admit I did not give it much thought. Instead in blissful ignorance, i thought tennis was a great game as it was something that both boys and girls played and it would be ideal for me as both children could play the sport.

As a Headteacher I used the formation of the WTA as a school assembly and even used the theme when I had been asked to present a whole school assembly as part of a Headteacher selection process in a different school. I thought the story of Billie Jean King was inspiring as was today’s outcome that  the men’s and women’s Wimbledon champions receive equal prize money.

Yet as my daughter competes in Orange tournaments I am noticing the small number of girls that are playing the game, which reduces  further in each age category and in turn the small number of women who are paid coaches at tennis clubs, (fortunately my daughter does have the opportunity to work with one).

The campaign, ‘this girl can’ has had a considerable impact in raising the issues of women in sport and on Saturday women will finally compete in the Boat Race alongside their male counter parts. As a Headteacher I was very supportive of the female PE teachers in my school who reached out especially to girls in year 10 and year 11 to provide sporting opportunities which they enjoyed in core PE lessons rather than seek to avoid.

There is no doubt that governing bodies must act to ensure that their sport is girl friendly. In the case of tennis it is the LTA. In the following blogs I’d like to consider some actions which could be taken to make competitions, AEGON team tennis and rankings more encouraging towards girls to keep them in the sport. So that these girls can and continue to do so.

However I am also interested in what do you do to encourage your daughter’s tennis?
Do you look for a female coach as a role model? Does she attend a girl’s tennis squad? Do you encourage her to hit with other girls? Do you look for a girl’s tournament in mini tennis? Do you not enter mixed tournaments or mixed matchplay?

We all know that many girls drop out of sport and we will have our own way of trying to ensure that our daughter’s don’t do that. I wonder what idea you have?

Blog 2 in this series looks at how competition organisers can encourage girls to compete more: Girls in tennis competitions

Blog 3 in the series considers how we can make team tennis more attractive to girls: Girls in team tennis

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents is written and I’m now looking for a publisher. Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

10 Quotes to motivate your child

motivation At one of the tennis clubs that I visit, (Queniborough Tennis Club, @GSMleisure) there are motivational quotations painted on the wall of the newly refurbished club room.  My son looked at them, enjoyed reading them and quoted them back at me. We are always looking for ways to help our children’s motivation and it made me think which are some of my favourite quotes. Here is my first list of ten:

  1. I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Muhammad Ali
  2. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison 
  3. It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Edmund Hilary
  4. Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm Winston Churchill
  5. “The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” – Roger Bannister quotes
  6. When people throw stones at you, turn them into milestones – Sachin Tendulkar
  7. I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. –Michael Jordan
  8. Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. –Albert Einstein
  9. I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. –Florence Nightingale
  10. You miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretsky

So what do you think motivates your child? Or do you know what motivated your child? I’m currently writing the next chapter of my book on ‘what motivates your child?’. I’d be fascinated to hear your stories.

6 reasons for playing tennis


How often have you thought why do I do this? Why do I drive my child round competitions with all the early starts? Why do I spend all the money on tennis lessons and training? What about the constant spend on equipment, trainers or clothes?

The answer to the questions above must be found in your your reasons for encouraging your child to play tennis?

When I ask myself this, I come up with following six points:

  • To have fun – This has to be the key reason for children to begin playing any sport, they must enjoy and have fun.
  • To be with friends and meet new ones – Even though tennis is an individual sport, I’ve always welcomed opportunities for my children to meet a wide range of players / adults and spend time talking to them.
  • To learn about the sport & improve their game related skills including co-ordination.
  • To work on their fitness – This is quite close to the reason above and again we are probably aware that we want our children running around and building their fitness.
  • To do something they’re good at – The more they play the better they get and children realize they are actually good at something which is good for their confidence and self-esteem.
  • To compete – I have deliberately left this reason to last. I do believe that children gain so much from competition but this is careful balance as very few children are sustained and nourished by continual competition.

What do you think? What are your reasons for your children to play tennis? Your reasons for playing your own tennis? Or your own reasons for coaching children to play tennis?

I am currently writing a parents guide to tennis so I would be fascinated your views, opinions and your story on why your children play tennis or you play tennis. Please comment below.

Tennis parenting through the looking glass

Adidas By Stella McCartney Media Launch

“Why it’s simply impassible!

Alice: Why, don’t you mean impossible?

Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing’s impossible!”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

How many times have we watched our child play and at the end of the match had a list of situations that we wished to discuss with them. Hoping that they would reflect on a small aspect of their game that with a little tweak would improve their chances. It might be an aspect of positioning, the right time to play a certain shot or a discussion on positive thinking.

We might wait until the end of the competition, till the next day or to the next coaching session to try and help our child reflect more deeply and hope that the learning points may be more sustained.

Yet how often do we reflect on our parenting? Do you reflect on what is the best message to give your child? Or when is the most effective time to do this? We are all looking for the small margins that will make a difference to our child’s game and one of those could be reflecting on how we help the most effectively.

The theory

“I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Those in education may have the heard of the concept of double loop learning, something that Schon described in his work on the ‘Reflective practitioner’. The idea is quite simple. When you are talking to your child, there is the first loop of learning were you are helping your child learn. The second loop is when you reflect on how effective has your conversation been. Teachers will use this idea as a reflective practitioner by thinking what have the children learnt in a lesson and then consider how could their teaching have improved.

The Practice

The next time you have a list of points, which you wish to discuss with your child, why not also think

  • When is the best time to discuss this?
  • When you are having the conversation, how is your child engaging?
  • What impact do you notice in your child’s game in the future?


“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

That really is careful reflection.